Posted in English

How It Started, How’s It Going

I must admit, when I started my master plan to level up my português proficiency to C1, I wondered if I was being too ambitious and… Well, to be honest, I still think that. It’s going OK so far though, as the optimist said as he fell past the twentieth floor. I’m two days in and I’m keeping it going:

I’ve done two rounds of exercises from A Actualidade em Português and got mainly right answers, plus a couple of things I need to learn from. I’ve also tweeted a few things in my new guise of Pedro Álvares Cabral, discoverer of Brasil, and managed to elicit my first “LOL” with this bad boy.

Still only one follower though, and even that looks like a bot. Early days.

I’ve also written two texts in r/WritestreakPT and read a chapter of a book and about quarter of a banda desenhada called BRK. I’m finding my Portuguese podcasts slightly hard work though. And oh god, I keep doing even more ridiculous things to challenge myself. Since I want to learn poems, i decided to make the first week’s a song, so I started teaching myself Flagrante by Antonio Zambujo on the ukulele but I am hopeless at the ukulele so it’s pretty painful. I’m also thinking of making some sort of politics wallchart that lays out who all the parties and office-holders are so I can understand some of the political tweets better.

Samsung Health in Portuguese - the picture shows the meal tracking screen

The most unexpectedly-helpful thing I’ve done has been tracking my fitness in Portuguese. As I’ve mentioned before, my phone is set to use Portuguese as its system language so most of the apps are in Portuguese too. I started tracking my food and exercise using Samsung Health because I’m too chubby, and I didn’t think I’d learn much because I felt like I knew the names of most foods already but wow, was I ever wrong! I’ve had to look up a ton of foods even in the short time I’ve had it: apricots (damascos), bean sprouts (broto de feijão), soy sauce (molho de soja) and raisins (uvas passas) were just today’s crop of additions to my word-hoard.

Posted in English

C1 Here I Come

I’ve been a bit slack on learning Portuguese lately. I’ve basically been treading water since I did the B2 diploma. In fact, since the pandemic started, I’ve spent as much time on my “hobby” language, Scots Gaelic as I have on my main one. That needs to stop because I am determined to be properly fluent in Portuguese if it kills me.

I’m not very good at abandoning things so I’m allowing myself till the end of this coming week to finish off my remaining Gaelic things, and read any outstanding foreign language books from my TBR and then I am going to commit to portuguese: purge my daily to-do list of distractions, delete Duolingo (It’s too Brazilian) and submerge myself in the language as far as reasonably possible for someone who doesn’t live there. The time for pissing about is over. Go duro or go para casa.

So here’s my list of activities to work on through the autumn

  • Make a new Twitter account, tweet only in Portuguese, pretend to be Portuguese, interact with people, see how long I can get away with it (not long probably, but it’ll be fun to try)
  • Watch one Portuguese movie or series episode per week.
  • Finally finish “A Actualidade em Português*” which is a B2 book meant to finish in 2020 but didn’t
  • Then do one esercise of Português Atual* C1 or one from this course per day
  • Only read Portuguese books (exception for work-related books that I need to read for career development)
  • Listen to mainly portuguese audio. I probably can’t go total on this one but the balance needs to shift towards Portuguese pretty decisively.
  • Memorise one Portuguese poem per week. C-level Portuguese needs you to be able to appreciate literature a bit and I’ve been trying to memorise poems recently, including one by Pessoa and one by Florbela Espanca, which I can still remember weeks later, so this seems like something I can incorporate as part of my language learning.
  • Write something each day on the Portuguese Writestreak subreddit.
  • Follow the Bertrand Portuguese History Course once a fortnight and try to participate as much as possible. It’s starting soon and it’s really good value (only a hundred and forty quid for 20 lessons with current exchange rates and bulk discount) but pretty challenging (see this review of a previous course I did for an idea of how challenging!)

The aim will be to go for C1 or even C2 by about May next year.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “are you crazy?” and you’re right, it does seem pretty ambitious, but I’ve been thinking it through and I reckon I can do it. The key piece is what I wrote at the top there about clearing my daily to do list. Early in the pandemic I started getting up at 5.30 and going through a list of daily chores, including meditation, a big chunk of Duolingo, watering the plants and a load of other bits and pieces. It’s nice because it gives me some free time before my family wake up to do things on my own before work starts and feel productive. If I purge a few things from that and replace with daily items from the list and do some of the larger things like movies in the evening and weekends it should be manageable, time-wise. I just need to keep it interesting: short texts in the writestreak, be ruthless about abandoning boring books so reading doesn’t become a chore, try to be funny on twitter, make sure the films I choose are good… Yeah, I can do this.

Sou capaz!

I have some other things I’d like to fit in, like cooking from Portuguese recipes, following Portuguese exercise videos, finally getting around to reading the bloody Lusíadas, going to a fado concert or two, actually visiting the country itself, and (this is the most ambitious of all) having a conversation with my wife in Portuguese without her running away with her fingers in her ears to escape my horrible accent. But those are probably a bit hard to plan since they either don’t fit easily into my routine or in some cases they’re contingent on the pandemic simmering down. Basically, I don’t want to have something on the plan that I won’t end up doing because then I’ll start to lose motivation. I think the list on its own will do for now. If I manage the others, I’ll consider that icing on the cake.

*=if you’re interested in finding out about textbooks for Portuguese study, I did a page about them recently.

Posted in English

I Hold In My Hand A Piece Of Paper

I was asked if I have a copy of past exam papers. Sadly, no I don’t because I scribbled answers on them all during revision and then recycled them when I finished the exam. There are a few scattered around the web but it’s not always easy to find them because they could be on pages of any language, not just english or portuguese. Here are the ones I know about:

Firstly, straight from a boca do cavalo, there are samples of the three sections of the paper, including an audio file of the compreensão oral test on the University of Lisboa’s site. The audio part is essential. As I’ve said in my descriptions of the tests, you definitely need to do some practice with this and figure out your strategy for reading the questions and answering them while listening in the very short time available. They play each one to you twice, but the amount of time for each one is pretty small, so it’s not the sort of thing you can just wing it through.

This site, Ensino Basico, has some dummy exam papers for levels A1, A2 and B1. They don’t look like official documents but they seem pretty realistic and they have sound files too, which is great.

This site has some different specimens of three of the four sections. The page is in italian but the papers themselves are in portuguese of course so it doesn’t matter. If you scroll down, there are three links in red. You can use ctrl+F to search for “interazione” if you want to go straight to it. No audio files, sadly.

Google also turns up a few if you are prepared to sift through the various results a bit.

This one from TELC is a pretty professional looking B1 test template. It’s not quite in the same format as the official exam but it has a similar level and some of the same exercises, at least. It feels a bit wrong that I can see it. I think these exam templates are supposed to be for sale, and I’m not sure if they even realise that this one is searchable via Google, but it is so take full advantage, I say.

This one purports to be a B1 test. It’s definitely not in the format used for the official CAPLE/DEPLE exams but it might be something extra if you need more practice.

If you want to take this to the next level, I’d advise getting one of the books of exam papers. Here’s the one I used for B1 and 2, for example

You can get it online from Bertrand and download the audio files here by entering the ISBN number (9789897524622) and publisher (Lidel). Bertrand also sell a book of B2 test papers with an accompanying CD from the same company called Exames de Portugues B2, Preparacao e Modelos which might be useful if you are looking at intermediate level, but bear in mind that it covers several different flavours of B2 level test including DIPLE Escolar, which is the test given to school-age children, Celpe-Bras, the brazilian equivalent of DIPLE and half a dozen others I don’t even recognise. It’s not specific to the standard CAPLE test framework, in other words, so although it is quite chunky, it may not be as useful as it seems.

The hardest thing to simulate is the fourth part of the test, “produção e interação orais”. You should probably work with a portuguese language teacher if you’re not already, or at the very least ask a portuguese friend to grill you to develop your conversation skills. Think about how to talk about yourself, practice talking about your favourite aspect of portuguese culture – food, music, books, and practice just looking at photographs and thinking about how you would describe them if you had to. It isn’t as long or as scary as you think it’ll be but it’s definitely worth getting used to that environment.

Posted in Portuguese

We Was Robbed!

I went on a misson to Hyde Park this morning to collect my exam certificate from the portuguese embassy. They won’t mail it, you have to go in person. I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been disappointed to only receive a “suficiente” and not a “bom”. The cut-off is at 70% and I felt like I’d done really well, so when I got the result I assumed I’d hit the high sixties and just missed it. Disappointing but not the end of the world.

So, fast forward back to today. The teacher handed me the paper and I could see the marks I got for wach of the four of the components. For three, I was in the 70-80 range, which would have been fine, but the written component – usually one of the easiest bits – was well below that level at a pitiful 20%.

Twenty!

I said to the guy that it was a bit difícil a acreditar, undermining my case somewhat by tripping over my tongue and making a ton of mistakes through sheer nervousness. My written work definitely isn’t bad enough to hit 20 per cent though. I probably made some errors, but I finished both pieces and they were decent enough. One of the things about the exam, though, is that each paper has a candidate number on it, not a name, and I suspect mine might have got switched with someone else’s. Either that or they meant to give me 200% but ran out of ink before the second 0. Either way, I’m definitely appealing the mark.

Posted in English

Big Day

Right, well here I go then…

Tuesday

  • Read on the train
  • 1 hour accent practice (speaking)
  • 1 hour accent practice (listening – while walking)
  • Write about o Mosteiro de Batalha

Wednesday

  • Read on the train
  • 1 hour lesson
  • 1 hour conversation practice
  • Write a letter of complaint
  • Go to bed early

Thursday

  • Exam
Posted in English

Exam Prep Review #6

Last 3 days. Biff. And also: Thwack.

Monday:

  • 1 hour lesson
  • Watch “Gatos Nao têm Vertigens”
  • Write about the Padrão dos descobrimentos
  • Write about the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (did a text about my book instead)
  • Watch 1 episode of “O Ministério do Tempo”

Tuesday

  • Read on the train
  • 1 hour accent practice (speaking)
  • 1 hour accent practice (listening – while walking)
  • Write about o Mosteiro de Batalha

Wednesday

  • Read on the train
  • 1 hour lesson
  • 1 hour conversation practice
  • Write a letter of complaint
  • Go to bed early

Thursday

  • Exam
Posted in English

Exam Prep Review #6

Crossin’ off dem tasks:

Sunday:

  • Do the Just a Minute Challenge
  • Watch “Gatos Nao têm Vertigens” (not done)
  • Spend 15 minutes trying to commit the song to memory
  • Do half an hour more on the transcript
  • Go through DIPLE model exam (mostly done but not quite)

Monday:

  • 1 hour lesson
  • Do half an hour on the transcript
  • Watch the film from Sunday instead of the above which I’ve now decided is a waste of time.
  • Write about the Padrão dos descobrimentos
  • Write about the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
  • Watch 1 episode of “O Ministério do Tempo”

Tuesday

  • Read on the train
  • 1 hour accent practice
  • Write about o Mosteiro de Batalha

Wednesday

  • Read on the train
  • 1 hour lesson
  • 1 hour conversation practice
  • Write a letter of complaint
  • Go to bed early

Thursday

  • Exam
Posted in Portuguese

Escreva sobre um livro que tenha lido e que o tenha marcado (PT-PT Exame B2)

“Sinta o receio e faça-o assim mesmo”

Este livro é motivo de alguma vergonha porque não custumo de ler livros de auto-ajuda e nós homens (em geral) não sentimos vontade de discutir assuntos deste tipo, mas li este livro há alguns anos e fez uma mudança subtil no meu ponto de vista. Tenho tendências pessimistas. Muitas vezes, escolho a pior interpretação de qualquer situação em que me encontro, mas a verdade é que isso nunca aduda ninguém. Convém lembrar que, venha o que vier, o nosso próprio modo de pensar num assunto pode nos ajudar a tratar dele. Se pensarmos “não tenho tempo para estudar”, sentimo-nos impotentes, mas se dissermos “tenho tempo, mas prefiro assistir ao festival da canção”, embora nada mude no mundo exterior, vemos que há outras hipóteses, e podemos desligar a televisão e fazer algo diferente.

O escritor é optimista até um nível quase ridículo (tenta ver o lado positivo do cancro, por exemplo) e não consigo seguir os exemplos todos, mas esta pequena diferença fez uma diferença pequena mas significativa.

Posted in Portuguese

Uma Carta Para a Câmara Municipal

Londres, 18 de Maio de 2019

Árvores

Excelentíssimo Senhor

Ouvi falar de um novo projecto de construção em frente do nosso prédio. Embora não tenha nada contra o projecto em si, existe um aspecto que não aceito: os planos incluem o abatimento de todas as árvores na zona da frente dos nossos apartamentos. Nós habitantes precisamos duma ligação à natureza. Sobretudo para as crianças que vivem cá no prédio, um lar sem árvores e sem pássaros não é saudável. Ninguém nos consultou, e isso não é razoável nem justo. Pedimos uma mudança dos planos para que as árvores possam ficar, ou pelo menos, se não for possível, um plano alternativo que tem como objectivo de substituir outras árvores na zona onde vivemos.

Fico à espera de uma resposta e se não a tiver dentro de uma semana tomarei outras medidas

Sem Outro Assunto,

Os melhores cumprimentos

18ck